Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Haruki Murakami 村上春樹

April 25, 2010
Reading and wonderment: Haruki Murakami  

One of my first teachers, an admitted fraud who preyed on gullible Berkeley seekers by claiming to stand in the line of Mr Gurdjeiff’s authorized teachers, once gave me some useful advice: if you have five bucks burning a hole in your pocket and you’re fascinated by a title in the remainder pile, don’t hold back. Splurge!

I would recommend the practice to anyone with no reservations.

When Cody’s was selling every last book, Linda Anderson and I wandered into their store on 4th St in Berkeley where I saw Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” slashed to $6.99. That was 1.99 over the limit for the fascination practice and I had no idea who he was—I hadn’t read “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle,” but I had to find out where, how a Japanese writer found Kafka anywhere, much less the shore.

It sat on a shelf for at least two years before I opened it. After 4 pages I could barely put it down. It is Japanese magical realism, but for some reason I really started to understand something about the origins of koans, or imagined that I did.

Then two days ago I found one of the republished “Paris Review Interviews” in a remainder pile in San Francisco. OK, So maybe it was 6 or 7 dollars, again over the limit, but the fake Gurdjeiff advice was almost 40 years old—there has to some adjustment for inflation—let’s get real. In it, an interview with Haruki Murakami. Yes, some of his narrative structures (he calls them) do come from the Buddhist tales of his childhood. His grandfather was a Buddhist priest. He hallowed them out and then let his imagination repopulate them. His words. He also loves jazz; he was not trained as a writer at all but had run a jazz club—you can hear the notes of his riffs even in translation. He began writing at night after work on the kitchen table. Sounds like a friend who would be right at home in our PZI/Zen crowd.

I don’t know if he ever passed a koan. I don’t know if he would even be interested. But his stories are marvelous.

The sunshine is so wonderful on this bight Saturday afternoon that I had to pass this along.


Ellen Etc said...

I finally decided that it's OK to read more than one Murakami novel a year, because my tastes might change, or I might die, before I enjoyed them all. I've read 3 so far. My favorite author. Can't read him too slow, but don't want to ever run out. What a dilemma.

I didn't think I'd like "A Wild Sheep Chase," his first novel published in English, but of course I did. Some readers are unnerved by him, while some of us are energized and fascinated.

tellall said...

I fully agree with the sentiment—and the dilemma. But I have another solution: read them more than once. I am rereading Kafka on the Shore and it is still wonderful, in some ways even better.